tv Your Business MSNBC July 10, 2011 7:30am-8:00am EDT
what? bundling and saving made easy. now, that's progressive. call or click today. answer. keeping your business booming by hiring a mystery shopper. i go undercover to find out what they do and how they can help you and your employees. we'll have all that and more coming up next on "your business." small businesses are revitalizing the economy. and american express open is here to help. that's why we are proud to present "your business" on msnbc.
hi there, everybody. i'm j.j. ramburg, and welcome to "your business" where we give you tips and advice to help your business grow. as we look to the second half of the year, the economic signals remain mixed for small business. consumer spending has slowed and small business optimism is down and credit for them is in a deep recession, but a new reuters poll claims lending to owners is up 26% from the same time last year. what lie as head? christie is the executive director of the national association for the self-employed and andrea is the president of civic incorporated a traels training company and wrote in "the huffington post" what small business owners must
do in the event of a double-dip recession. i'd like to hear what people are talking about in your world, the people, are they optimistic or nervous. >> the self-employed community which is 78% of the population is optimistic about the economy however what they're not optimistic about is our government, our policymakers making no decisions at all. the unstable policy climate will continue to put up road blocks to allow the community to areef and grow past this current economic climate. >> how does it how how they run their business. >> they're cautious about the decisions they make. so much is occupy in the air regarding policy whether tax policy, health policy, dealing with the national debt right now, balancing a budget. there's just a big concern about
the regulatory climate so people are caucus about the way they make their business and growing and spending money and making it difficult for people to get through the economic downturn. >> does it feel different than a couple of years ago? >> it is. our members are saying it's worse, that the political climate is so much worse these days that people are putting politics over policy and making good decisions so there's a big concern about that instability and how it affects the economy longer term and how it trickles down to a small business owner who is just trying to sort his family and grow his business. >> you wrote an interesting article in "the new york post." if things go well, that's one scenario, if things don't go well, what should we think
about. >> sort of in spite of what's happening in the economy, some of the things i recommend running a simmer promotion. i'll give you 25% off a certain amount of business if in exchange you pay in full by 31st. so i think compromise is fine when you're making deals with clients. i don't recommend concessions, if you offer something to them you do something back so you both win. in exchange you pay up front in full and we'll work on your project then it helps you with cash flow that that way and maybe have that commitment the project will be done by the end of the year. >> what are some other ideas you had. >> other ideas, i know this is a big scary found but i have this great habit. jump on the phone, make an hour's worth of phone calls or
set two new appointments with customers whichever comes first. if you made 10 minutes of calls and get two appointments you're done. if in an hour you don't get anything. two appointments or whatever comes first. three meetings a week, this should take you ten meetings a week for ten years. >> since people can't si role policy right now. are there things you found people have done that you found were helpful. >> go to organizations like the nase or your small business solemnity center and get one-on-one assistance you node to help, frank and your your physician. >> i agree with and what. marketing is key and branding yourself is so important so get mart mr. -- get it with
branding. >> what you were saying too, nothing ever happen s if you don't leave your house or office. a good piece of advice to get out there and meet people and you just don't know what's going to happen from there. thank you both so much. i really appreciate you coming on the program. >> thank you. >> thank you. most of us take a product like salt for granted. it's widely available and cheap to buy. so how crazy is it for someone to start a high-end food based on salt. turns out not crazy at all if you know how to season it and store it properly. >> i brought salt from hawaii for mini faults. >> mark bitterman has changed the way people think about salts. >> your older smoked salt.
>> yes. >> and beautiful. started with a trip overseas with his new wife jennifer. one day i was riding through the north of france and started to get a bite to eat and i was sitting the steak and realized what in the world am i eating. this is completely wild. >> what drove him wild was the exotic taste of local li produced salt. what's this salt. he's like this is sarlt from garrone. i go blazing out to garr ochone i fell in love. >> that grew into salts from around the worlds. he and anyone decided to make a business out of it. >> i want you to come and stand and feel like you're a beautiful
person and beautiful place. >> how do you expect your salt is quite ex-territory and very different from your common effort table salt in cathis cas by getting them involved. >> a friend recommended -- he said, you have a lot to say about salt. if you use it it gives you something to talk about and around with other people and it it? s you sort of a calling card. >> so mark and jennifer started toal vad to the brand about true person things about their lives and private companies. >> somebody walks in the door. you spent some time talking and talk to feel your resolution and conduction. >> one said -- the an lit tall part says this is sub remember. who cares and how do i know?
>> anne louise is one of the portland hand customers. how cool is that to girn with? and he goes to this little french roadside restaurant. i want the romance of that. >> it made the salts a phenomenon. a new york branch opened in 2010 and the bittermans' enthusiasms conduct on. >> mark has opened my eyes. how do i describe mark? i don't know. he's my fountain of through, what is what he is. >> vitale y palelei and he said his patrons noticed the grds. >> how did you change this? what happened. the only thing i can attribute it to is the different salt.
i know what happens. >> it blows my mind to hear a professional chef say i've been using kosher salt for 20 years, switching to article start is the best sold. >> just over and over again were converting. we can't live with that. it's ainged our teating and our life and it's huge. >> this kind of connection goes both way, the bittermanman live to their customers as their customers by with them. we have astronauting into the store and they're asking about all these salts. can we buy it for a straunth and athat happens again and again. one on one with their customers, the bitterman's business has
grown in ways they never accepted. >> we don't do advertising. we the real way to build business is word of mouth. it's stock exchange lowered robust, very sill vapts and work in ways you could never preconvict. you don't maintain what it is. your customers do. >> getting people involved in the back story of your product can help spice up some interest. to this week's board of directors. john jance, a small business marketing system and also the awe thof the new book "the referral anthony." teaching your business to market it safe. >> terry evans and mike "caught on camera" calester is here to help people become leash options. you're laughing at your own name. you must have been salivated as
the offer of the referral action and threat it mark itself. >> i mean thor is what people to one of my favorite fred ranlsers quotes i use all the time, it's hard not to like someone once you yee another stare but i think in this case they've taken secret as a commodity salt and given it a story and could take where the salt have from and the history and culture of the people that mine the salt. i think they could take it further but definitely on the right track. >> what was done with coffee. >> exactly. exactly. even fruits i think have gone that route, as well. >> so this is -- these guys are foodies and to be, you know, people who aren't foodies are sort of fascinated with foodies. people who are are fascinated. whole world of itself and create
something romantic. as the woman in the piece said, what if you have kind of a boring business. you're creating a widget. how do you create a story around that. >> sure, i mean i think there are certainly several examples that companies have taken these, whether burgers or coffee or salt in this case and have created a new experience around it. i think there's a lot to be learned from this particular entrepreneur. i mean, one thing is they took something that's basic and found a way to reinvent it, even pair it with something that would be unusual like the sweet and the savory and complete a shared experience around it and create a shared experience around it. row mant simanticizing it and b people together and reaching out to the culinary community, getting those evangelists like the chefs of high-end restaurants to be your evangelists for you. >> do you think, mike, there is a story in every product or
sometimes will it sound forced. >> absolutely there is a story in every product because a story also becomes or ultimately becomes an identity. think of corona beer. it was a big flop until they made it into the story in the identity of easy going, beach life and it took off and could sell for a premium. the salt is the exact same thing. once you have a story of how it came about, people will identify it and say that's what it helps. that's who i am and by consuming it it identifies who i am. >> john, do we all need to create stories. >> i think it's a great powerful driver but the bottom line is you can create a story by trying to connect to the things that humans want. we all want love and belong and all want passion. i think the woman suggested this made her feel romance and i think that that's what you're connecting to. not just creating a story for story sake but creating a story that allows people to connect to the things they really want in their lives and if they can get
that from your product in some bizarre way maybe that they create, that is a powerful connection. >> i guess, look, if you have a product that people want, then there should be some connection to it or something you can talk about. >> it's not even that they want it, it's that it does something for them. you know, that maybe they're in charge of what that is, but that's okay. because if it does it for them it will pay a bunch. >> guy, thank you very much. i think this was an interesting topic. it's -- you have to think about it. and think about what it is i'm doing that will connect with people. once you get that, it spreads. all right, thanks so much, guys. where are the lowest taxes? who is top in tech and who's got the best workforce? here now are america's top states for business courtesy of cnbc's fifth annual report. number five, colorado. the state received top tension rankings in workforce, quality of life and business
friendliness. georgia comes in at number four with the nation's second best infrastructure in transportation system. third on the list is north carolina. one of the nation's best workforces could be found here. texas, number two, their infrastructure is ranked first for the second year in a row and the number one city for business is virginia. this is the third time in five years that virginia has captured first place honors. more good advice to help your small business is headed your way. i go undercover to find out how mystery shoppers give you a better idea how to help your customers. today's elevator picture also has a secret. a secret compartment in his sandals ♪ walking on sunshine this is my band from the 80's, looker.
hair and mascara, a lethal combo. i'm jon haber of alto music. my business is all about getting music into people's hands. and the plum card from american express open helps me do that. you name it, i can buy it. and the savings that we get from the early pay discount has given us money to reinvest back into our business and help quadruple our floor space. how can the plum card's trade terms get your business booming? booming is putting more music in more people's hands. for so many businesses customer service is key. and the way some stores keep employees up to snuff is by sending in mystery shoppers. which is now become a booming business in itself. does it work? we donned a trenchcoat and went
undercover to find out. if you're an employee at la bonne's supermarket, you know that behind every inquiring customer there may be a notebook recording how you ago. >> hi. how are you? >> good. how are you? >> good. do you have doughnuts. >> sundays we have doughnuts. only on the weekends. >> okay, great. thank you. >> they pride themselves on customer service and once a month it puts its employees to the ultimate test and sends in a mystery shopper who recorded their every move. this month i played the role. judy is the ceo of customer perspective, a mystery shopping cu customer who trained me. what will i look for when i go inside? >> you have to look for cleanliness at the entryway, the carriages, floors, the windows and then it's important that you do all the departments, because
they want to evaluate how much product knowledge is and how helpful people are. >> excuse me. do you have avocados here? >> oh, great. how do i know which ones are right. >> you might ask for an item and see if they take you. >> where would i find teriyaki sauce? >> if you ask about an item, not only do they know the answer but how are they treating you? do you feel important. >> oh, great, thank you. how long do you think that will last then? >> a good hour and a half. >> fantastic, that should be good. after i was done with my mystery shopping tour i checked in with the owner. ready for my report. >> yes, i am. >> as far as your employees go, everyone could not have been nicer. >> we try to hire higher level employees. >> can i ask you one more question. i'm looking for mellon. i spoke with luis martinez who helped me in the produce
department. did you know i was from nbc and a mystery shopper. >> no, i did not. >> you were so nice to me. >> i'm always nice to everyone. at least i try to do. >> i felt like i was getting a lesson on how to pick produce. >> that's how i was trained. >> la bonne say he wouldn't be able to get the same sense by watching himself or surveying his customers. in a world where consumers have too many choices, customer service is more important than ever. >> you've got to have the cust pler's perspective, because that's the key to retaining that customer. >> lau do you feel about them having people spying on you? >> i think it's great. i think it keeps you on your toes. if you don't get checked on, people tend to get complacent. if you're standing still, then you're not moving forward. >> the employee lunchroom is where the mystery shopping reports are posted for everyone to see. the rewards for a good report, movie ticket.
it may cost a little more to have a mystery shopping program, but bob says he sees the returns every day. >> when you retain a customer, you think of over years, you may have that customer for 20, 30 years. think of all the money that one customer brings in, a lot more than it's going to take to mystery shop. >> you go to the beach and you want to go in the water, but where do you put your wallet and your keys and all your stuff. today's elevator pitcher says, if the shoe fits, stick it all in there. >> hi, i'm matt pots. let me give you my business card. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> these shoes allow you to carry anything you want inside your saddle. i'm looking to sell these through travel industry retailers over the next year and looking for $600,000 primarily dedicated towards sales, marketing and pr efforts.
about a third to manufacturing and development because i want to develop new categories of this footwear as well. the other 10, 20% would be used towards operations. it's a patented product. it's very comfortable and great for the beach, cruises or poolside. any time you want to be hands and pockets-free. >> matt, thank you so much. i love when we have the beach sooenl. you look incredibly appropriate. we look incredibly inappropriate. good job. how did he do? >> i love this wallet came with cash stuck in there. very pure sway sive. >> i need that back. >> interesting presentation. i do have a question for you. i assume people want to store cell phones? >> not now, but who knows down the road? i'd like to develop new categories. i've also thought about doing something in a vertical sector like the military, gps, cell phones, other types of electronic devices.
the idea is interchangeable, removable module in the sole. >> did he get everything in the pitch or was there something more he needed? >> great presentation. i think what we needed to include also was, you know, we didn't talk about how much sales you've had so far, also where your products are being sold through. >> brook stone.com. i definitely want to mention that, csn.com and shoebuydirect.com. we've sold a couple thousands so far. that's really important. sorry i missed it. >> one thing we talked about in an elevator pitch is always show traction. this is where we're going, this is where we're going and this is where we think we're going to go. based on what he said, would you take another meet? >> i'm a little concerned you don't cover cell phones. i think that's the biggest problem. i think $600,000 is a big raise, but i'd take the meeting. >> terry? >> i'd take a meeting, also.
one other thing i'd like to see address saturday if there's been any pushback with tsa security requirements or anything like that and if there's a negative associated with it and how you're addressing it. >> good luck with everything. thank you so much and thank you for everything. really appreciate it. if any of you have a product or service and want feedback from our elevator pitch panel on your chances of getting interested investors, send us an e-mail at email@example.com. don't forget to include a short summary of what your company does, how much you're trying to raise and what you're going to do with the money. you never know. somebody watching might be interested in helping you. it's time now to answer some of your business questions. terry and mike are with us again. the first one is about protecting your brand. >> how do companies incorporate independent contractors and
still maintain their overall brand identity. >> tricky, right? you get people to come in, not part of the company or the culture. what do you do? >> brand identity means consistency. you have to execute the same way. when you hire a contractor, just because they have expertise doesn't mean they'll do it your way. you have to bring them through your process, have systems in place saying i know you know how to do what you're doing. develop those systems. then bring in contractors and bring them through the system. that will work and improve your brand identity. >> a little bit expensive in the beginning. >> absolutely. it's an investment. >> you have to pay for training time. in which case you want to make sure you have contractors that will stay around because you don't want to keep training new people. >> absolutely. also, you really want to make sure that as much as possible, if you can keep its to tacks that have minimal or no interaction with the customer or client. when you're talking about your sales team, when you're talking
about your customer service folks, you really want to keep those internal as much as pos bld and keep those independent contractors with a little bit less interaction with the consumer. >> if possible. okay. let's move on to the next one. this is about government contracts. >> we've been in business for over 12 years now serving the residential market in the cleaning industry and we're trying to go into federal contracting. how do we do that? >> federal contracting. we get this question a lot. all this talk from the government about how there are all these contracts out there, but getting to them is quite tricky. >> first of all, before you bid on a contract, you have to be registered with the government in their vendor database. you can go to the business partner network, bpn.gov/ccr and register your business. there's no cost to that which is
fantastic. you can certainly go on there, create your business profile. that's step number one. also, you want to go to the federal business opportunities website. you go to that fbo.gov and zch out all these different contracts and opportunities out there with a couple of key words in the search tool. that's a great place to get started, to kind of get your feet wet, get yourself registered and see what's out there available for you. >> any ideas, mike? >> a lot of people think it's all red tape and that's all there is. it's a very cold experience. the relationships absolutely still matter. the trick is go in with a prime contractor, somebody who is already in and come in as a subcontractor under them. that way you can start making the relationships. >> how can you find the main contractor? >> they're all clearly identified on the web. >> that's how i heard a lot of people get in, figure out how it all works and they can go off on their own. >> absolutely.
>> terry and mike, thank you for your advice today. really appreciate it. to learn more about today's show, click on openforum.com/yourbusiness. you'll find all of today's segments plus web-exclusive content. don't forget to become a fan of the show on face xwook. we look forward to getting your feedback. you can form low us on twitter @msnbcyourbiz. meet moms who turned down millions from professional investors and sought funding from fellow parents. >> we spoke to them at school, play dates, playgrounds. we would open my laptop on the floor of my daughter's ballet class, pitched them at birthday parties. >> find out why these women opted for strategic investors rather than traditional angels. i'm j.j. ramberg. remember we make your business our business.